Vancouver Olympics: Russia Misses Gold, and Heads Will Roll

As the United States basks in the glow of its best Winter Olympics ever, Russia is dealing with its worst. And there are going to be consequences.

"Those who are responsible for the team's training for the Olympic Games must answer, now. They must have the courage to step down," President Dmitry Medvedev told a gathering of the United Russia party on Monday.

"If they haven't, we will help them," Medvedev added, according to Interfax.

Medvedev stayed quiet throughout the games while the country howled about how its mighty winter athletes had fallen. Medvedev had planned a trip to Vancouver for the closing ceremony but canceled at the last minute, a spokesman told ABC News, because there was too much important business in Moscow.

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Russia won 15 medals, but just three of them were gold -- the smallest number Russia had taken home from the winter games since its first in 1994. In the nine winter Olympics from 1954 to 1988, the Soviet Union won the medal count all but two times. When it didn't finish first it was second.

In Vancouver, Russia finished sixth.

The embarrassment is compounded by the fact that Russia is hosting the next Winter Olympics in 2014, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The facilities are projected to cost some $7 billion, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been heavily involved.

In the first days of Vancouver there were signs things weren't going according to plan. Russia failed to clinch the pairs figure skating title for the first time in 50 years. 2006 gold medalist Evgeny Plushenko took silver. Then, when the mighty Russian men's hockey team "crashed into a [Canadian] Maple tree," as one newspaper put it, the air went out of the country.

Nationalist opposition leaders called for the immediate dismissal of the head of the country's Olypmic committee and the sports minister.

Putin stopped just short of calling for the mass firings many others did, but made it clear something would be done to "fix the situation" before the games in Sochi.

A New Approach For Russia

Less than 24 hours after the Olympic flame in Vancouver went out, Medvedev is sketching out a new approach for the Russian program.

"We must drastically change the training of our athletes, judging by what has happened in Vancouver," he said. "We have been living on Soviet resources for a long time, but that is over now."

"Unprecedented investments are being made in sports in Russia, but money is not everything," said Medvedev. "The new training system must focus on athletes rather than on fat cats, the sport federations."

A leaked memo reported by the Russian newspaper Izvestia showed that sports officials privately expected to win around 31 medals, at least seven of them gold. A poll released by the Moscow-based Levada Center showed that Russians on average expected 14 gold medals.

Their president did too, but on Monday he did manage to recognize what few medals were won.

"We shall certainly thank those athletes who achieved results and attained victories," said Medvedev. "Too bad there were not very many of them."

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